California Wildfire Leads To Hundreds Of Evacuations

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- A fire consumed more than 400 acres and at least two structures in Mariposa County on Thursday, leading to the temporary evacuation of hundreds of residents in the area.

The fire, which was 70 percent contained by Friday morning, started at a residential development south of Mariposa on Thursday afternoon. It spread rapidly over the dry, uneven terrain, fire officials said.

``It's a very large fire,'' Judy Ward, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry in Mariposa said Thursday. ``There are hundreds of homes in the area, and mandatory evacuations are in effect. It's been going great guns.''

One home, one outbuilding, and four cars were reported lost to the fire.

Ward said nearly 400 firefighters were on the scene. They were getting support from fire departments in surrounding counties, she said.

On Thursday night the roads were still closed, but fire officials allowed residents to return to their homes to feed pets and take care of personal needs.

A spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said he expected residents to be allowed to return home by Friday afternoon.

The CDF and the Mariposa County Sheriff's Department believe the fire may be the work of an arsonist suspected of starting as many as eight grass fires in the area. Officials are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arsonist's capture.